FIRST-PERSON: Be alert amid Bible distortions
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP) -- Evangelicals may disagree about many things, but we stand together on the non-negotiables that define the Christian faith: the Trinity, justification by faith, and the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, to name a few.
Many belief systems, from Mormonism to Islam, profess a high regard for the Word of God. But, in fact, they deny its inspiration, inerrancy or preservation and thus reject the Bible as supremely authoritative.
Specifically, such religions employ four tactics to undermine the Scriptures:
1) They change it.
The most blatant of these is the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, whose members are known as Jehovah's Witnesses.
In the late 1800s, Charles Taze Russell launched a Bible study to spread his denials of the Trinity, Jesus' physical resurrection, and eternal punishment of the wicked in hell, cleverly twisting the Scriptures to buttress his false teachings. Not to be outdone, his successors produced their own version of the New Testament in 1950 and the completed New World Translation (NWT) in 1961.
Revised in 1984, and again in 2013, the NWT is a sanitized version of the Bible. Six translators -- only one of whom had any training in biblical languages -- essentially scrubbed the deity of Christ out of passages like John 1:1, John 8:58 and Colossians 1:15-17, and blurred other essential doctrines.
Jehovah's Witnesses may regard the NWT as "an accurate, easy-to-read translation of the Bible" (jw.org), but distinguished Bible scholars disagree. British scholar H.H. Rowley calls it "a shining example of how the Bible should not be translated."
Bruce Metzger, the late professor of New Testament language and literature at Princeton, called the NWT's version of John 1:1 ("and the Word was a god") "a frightful translation," "pernicious" and "reprehensible." He further stated, "If the Jehovah's Witnesses take this translation seriously, they are polytheists."
Even so, Witnesses are strongly encouraged to read only the NWT and to digest dozens of pages of Watch Tower literature every week. Sadly, as a result, Witnesses find it difficult to see the true Jesus in their Bibles, believing instead that He is a created being, Michael the Archangel.
2) They doubt it.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) claim to hold the Bible in high regard, but with a caveat. Among the LDS Articles of Faith is this statement: "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly...."
In other words, Mormons doubt the reliability of the King James Bible they read and freely distribute because founder Joseph Smith taught that large portions of Scripture have been lost or corrupted. To Smith, this is a result of the church falling into complete apostasy after the death of the apostles -- a dire situation God sent him to remedy.
So, what are Mormons to do? Trust Joseph Smith's "Inspired Version of the Bible," essentially the King James Version, which Smith "corrected, revised, altered, added to, and deleted from," according to LDS records.
Further, LDS members are encouraged to lean on other "standard works" such as the Book of Mormon.
3) They dilute it.
The LDS Church relies on the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price as their four written sources of authority. In addition, they may receive new revelations through their living prophet, seer and revelator -- the president of the LDS Church.
Meanwhile, Jehovah's Witnesses are exhorted to interpret Scripture in light of the Watch Tower's voluminous Bible studies and periodicals. Founder Charles Taze Russell once boasted of his Studies in the Scriptures, "They are not mere comments on the Bible, but they are practically the Bible itself."
In a similar way, Christian Scientists rely on Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures for a proper understanding of the Bible.
4) They replace it.
Islam claims to be the restoration of true Abrahamic monotheism, and the Qur'an calls Jews and Christians "people of the book." Muslims believe in the books of Moses, the psalms of David and the story of Jesus.
However, they also claim the Bible cannot be trusted because Jews and Christians have corrupted the texts. Therefore, one must read the Bible through the lens of the Qur'an to discern which parts are true. Essentially, the Bible is not necessary.
That's because Allah delivered the "eternal Qur'an" to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years.
The Qur'an is said to be the final, perfect, eternal word of God, superseding and correcting everything that came before it. In a similar manner, Muhammad is the "seal of the prophets," the last of 124,000 spokespersons for Allah, delivering the final chapter of Allah's revealed will.
Whether changing, doubting, diluting or replacing the Bible, false belief systems fail to correctly teach the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).
How much better to receive Scripture for what it is: "inspired by God ... profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in the righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17).